October 6, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Malachi 3:13-20b) Gospel (St. Luke 11:5-13)
In the first reading today, we hear the Lord rebuking the people of Israel because they have said, “It is vain to serve the Lord, and what do we profit by keeping His command?” This is not unlike what probably many of us have said from time to time: “What good is it to pray? I pray for all these things and nothing happens. I never seem to get the things that I pray for. Why should I keep doing it? Things just keep getting worse the more that I pray.” Well, we have a choice then. Are we going to keep praying or are we going to quit? It is true that sometimes it seems the more we pray the worse things get, however, God in His mercy is allowing these things to purify us and to test us, to see if we are going to remain faithful.
The Lord tells us in the Gospel that if we ask we will receive, if we knock the door will be opened, if we seek we will find. He says, What father among you would hand his son a scorpion if he asks for an egg? or a snake if he asks for a fish? We might be tempted to say, “But when I ask for things and I don’t get what I want, it only gets worse. Isn’t that like handing me a scorpion when I asked for an egg?” With God, the things that seem to be negative are in fact very positive. The reason for that is because on the surface it may seem like the thing that we do not want, but when we look back at it we realize that in His mercy He has given us what is the very best to help us, to purify us, to strengthen us, and that in fact what He has done is answered our prayer in a way that is far more perfect than what we ever could have hoped for if it was answered in just the way that we ourselves had asked.
It is incumbent upon us to remain faithful in prayer. This is not something that is an option for us; it is required. It is just part and parcel of what it means to be Christian. But even if we want to look at it in a self-serving way, we can listen again to the words of the prophet. He tells us that the Day of the Lord is coming and he says it is like a blazing oven, when the proud and evildoers will be stubble. On that day that is coming, it will set them on fire leaving them neither root nor branch. The Day of the Lord is upon us. The Day of the Lord, according to Scripture, can be something that is very positive or something that seems very negative. It is a divine intervention. It is a point at which God intervenes in our own lives or in society in general, in the world at large, to be able to do something extraordinary, either to extend some kind of blessing or to bring about some kind of purification. The reality is that this world, as we all know, needs to be purified. It needs it pretty desperately. Therefore, we are going to see the Day of the Lord.
Regardless of what happens on the large level, the Day of the Lord can still be something extraordinarily positive for each one of us. If we can cooperate with God, if we can remain faithful in prayer, if we can see what God is trying to do, this becomes the means by which we will become saints. Now most of the world is going to spend its effort and energy cursing God for the things that are going to come, but those who pray will remain faithful through it and they will bless God. Those are the two choices. There is not going to be an in-between. You are either going to be with God or you are going to be against Him. And there is only one way you are going to be with God – that is if you pray. If we do not pray, we are going to go against God because if we are not looking at Him we are looking at ourselves. Once again, the two choices.
The prophet makes it very clear, speaking on behalf of the Lord, that there is going to be once again a clear distinction. He says, You will again see the distinction between the just and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve Him. So those are the choices that are given to us, to serve Him or not. If we do not serve Him, we are going to serve ourselves. We have that choice. Remember whose motto is “I will not serve” – Mr. Lucifer. The choice is ours: to serve God or not to serve Him, to be with Satan and his minions or to be with God and the good angels and all the saints. If we want to serve God, there is only one way, and that is to pray. If we are not praying, we will not be able to serve God because we will not remain faithful; and in the midst of the trials that are coming, instead of looking at God, we are going to look at ourselves and we will crash just like the devil who was cast down to earth. Those are the choices that we have. Keep the focus on God, pray, and remain faithful, and the Day of the Lord that is coming will be for you a great blessing.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.